WASHINGTON - The National Corn Growers Association thinks ethanol is getting a bad rap thanks to partisan politics, and its leaders are taking action to set the record straight on the alternative energy source.

Concerned by lingering debate on the energy bill and misrepresentation of ethanol as a contributor to rising gas prices, the commodity group is urging members of Congress and the administration to put politics aside and get to work on passage of a comprehensive energy bill.

“It’s politics as usual and the American farmer is tired of it,” said Dee Vaughn, the NCGA president and a farmer from Dumas, Texas. “There’s a lot of doubt in the Corn Belt on whether politicians will actually do what they were elected to do, and that is lead.

“We need the White House and Congress to show Americans that our government works, that an energy bill can get done and that those we send to Washington, D.C., can do something other than blame someone else for not doing their job.”

The comments in a letter to the White House and congressional leadership was a response to several news stories linking ethanol to increasing gas prices. Within a span of two weeks, the national average gas price has increased from $1.75 to $2.07 per gallon. Natural gas prices have also risen to the highest-ever settlement price of $5.933 per MMBtu.

The recent increases are due to a number of influences including an extremely low gasoline and crude oil inventory, high crude oil prices due to OPEC, a higher than expected demand due to the growing economy and a cold winter that diverted production from gasoline to home heating oil, the corn growers say.

Recent research dispels the myth that ethanol is the cause of higher gas prices, the letter notes. In a recent analysis prepared for the Renewable Fuels Association, prices of reformulated gasoline, blended with either MTBE or ethanol, have not risen as fast as conventional gasoline.

The report also found that reformulated gasoline production, as a fraction of overall gasoline production, has remained constant over the last three months, resulting in no evidence that production is problematic.

Increasing production and use of ethanol and biodiesel, according to Vaughan, will promote a “greener” environment, promote economic growth and job creation, secure a better, more independent energy policy and help reduce the cost of gasoline.

“U.S. corn farmers are proud that the ethanol industry has doubled production over the past three years,” the letter said. “Without ethanol, existing supplies and refining capacity would be hard pressed to meet our nation’s fuel needs. But the ethanol and renewable industry alone cannot meet the need of our nation and there must be action by the government to address the loss of our energy independence, jobs, and in some parts of our nation, hope.”

Corn growers are urging the immediate passage of a comprehensive energy bill that includes a renewable fuels standard, along with the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit.

In recent days, Republican leaders have said they would transfer the energy bill’s tax provisions to a tax bill to fund projects like an Alaskan natural gas pipeline.

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com